StromHIPAA Deadline: April 14
If you’re not tired of HIPAA yet, just give it some time and chances are you will be. The first deadline for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is April 14. At a minimum, hearing health care professionals should have the required privacy stipulations in place on this date in order to conform with the new law. One of the most important requirements is to have Business Associate Agreements (BAA) with each “covered entity”—those businesses, including hearing instrument manufacturers, with whom you exchange audiograms and other information that could be construed as being identifiable patient health care data.

To facilitate compliance, the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) has produced a BAA document for use by hearing care professionals that has been reviewed and endorsed by at least two of the major professional organizations (AAA and IHS). While this will provide an excellent tool for dispensing professionals to use in order to gain compliance, it should be noted that HIA members aren’t necessarily doing this for altruistic reasons (and they freely admit as much). If manufacturers had to have their lawyers review individual BAAs (ie, 4-6 page documents) from even a portion of the 11,500 dispensing offices in the US, they would experience a gridlock not seen since the mid-‘90s when the FDA briefly instituted its stringent pre-market notification regulations.

If you run a hearing care business/practice, you need to file a BAA with all the hearing instrument manufacturers with whom you work. HIA’s BAA is the smart way to go for all the parties involved. It can be obtained by downloading it from the HIA HIPAA HelpDesk (www.hearing.org/hipaa). As with any document, you should read it carefully, and have it signed and on file prior to the April 14 deadline. Kudos to HIA for their work in providing this important document for dispensing professionals. For more information on the BAA, see page 14 of his issue.

  • A great $100 investment. The Better Hearing Institute’s (BHI) Physicians Referral Program (www.betterhearing.org) is making good headway, according to BHI Executive Director John Olive, who reports that the average dispensing professional who enrolls in the program, completes the course, and contacts physicians, dispenses 2 hearing aids per week due to the new referrals. This is a phenomenal outcome for what amounts to a $100 contribution to the BHI. Participants in the program get a complete CD-ROM course on how best to approach local physicians in order to gain referrals from their practices; a separate CD from which medical doctors and their staff members can gain a CE credit by viewing the hearing education course; an sample script that tells you exactly what to say when approaching physicians for referrals; and various materials, including newsletters, posters, handouts and brochures that would be of interest to doctors and medical staff. Not bad for $100. The program, now in its fourteenth month, has about 1500 enrollees (about 10% of all dispensing offices) of which close to 900 have completed the program, taken the exam, and made contact with MDs. Should the program continue at this pace (and Olive believes it’s picking up speed), it’s possible that the program could account for a 2% increase in sales on its own by this time next year.
  • A well-earned retirement. Yuzo Gyotoku, president of Rion in Tokyo, will retire in April. Mr. Gyotoku has been an executive in the hearing health care field for more than 25 years, guiding his company, working with HIA and related organizations, and hosting large groups of Japanese hearing care professionals to both IHS and AAA for many years. Mr. Gyotoku may also hold the industry record for most trans-Pacific flights: an amazing 10-15 each year for more than 20 years.

Karl Strom
Editor-In-Chief